The more you think about it, the bigger a headache it must be in terms of figuring out how to re-launch a “New 52” book at DC Comics. Because every single title varies in terms of how much or little past continuity has carried over (from virtually everything in “Green Lantern” to nothing at all in “Blue Beetle”), it’s a strange sort of puzzle game where nothing quite fits together with one another, and readers who might have come onto the ground floor for one title could end up getting baffled by being mid-stream on another comic.
So with all of that in mind, “Swamp Thing” is one of the trickier books to write. Right before the re-launch, we had good ol’ Swampy brought back into the DC Universe mainstream courtesy “Brightest Day,” so clearly going back to the start wasn’t in the cards. But at the same time, Scott Snyder was handed a strange situation, one where Alec Holland is alive again (instead of the Swamp Thing), and given the chance to run forward. So what do you do?
In the case of Snyder, the answer is to walk a fine line between new readers and existing ones. A lot of “Swamp Thing” #2 is dedicated toward re-introducing not only the idea of the Swamp Thing, but the bigger concepts like the Green, and the Parliament of Trees. Snyder brings in a retired Swamp Thing to explain all these things to Alec Holland, but at the same time he clearly knows that he’s got to put in enough here to have older readers not ending up with eyes glazing over.
And so, quietly at first, but with increasing tenor, he changes the rules. It’s not a radical, “Everything you knew was wrong!” moment, but rather additional information about how the Swamp Things are created, and what is ideal versus what we had before. It doesn’t discard all those previous runs on “Swamp Thing” but it gives us a big question mark for the future of Alec, letting us wonder just what will happen when (no doubt) he finally takes the plunge into becoming Swamp Thing once more.
The book isn’t all exposition, of course. While the exposition is interesting (and I love the miniature origin story for the past Swamp Thing), there’s a strong second half around the corner, one with horror and action mixed together. The sudden switch-up of peaceful to frantic happens at just the right moment, and while I don’t think anyone will be surprised by the person driving the motorcycle, it’s still a suitably dramatic moment to end the issue.
I’m still digging Yanick Paquette’s art, with his leaf-veined page layouts and that soft, beautiful line for the characters. Paquette is reminding me more and more of artists like Kevin Nowlan these days, especially with the scenes at the motel. He’s able to take the strange and make it feel both realistic and instinctively wrong in one fell swoop; I can’t imagine another artist making the motel sequence work as well as Paquette does here. His rendition of Swampy works well too, making him look not only like a massive hulking creature, but also much more organic and full-of-plants than most artists have in recent years. He genuinely comes across as a shambling form of plant life, and that’s a good thing. My one complaint is that because Paquette uses a lot of double-page spreads with the funky vein-layouts, whenever it’s two pages next to one another that aren’t part of a spread, they look so similar at first that it’s hard to keep from having your eye track across to the next page instead of moving down the rest of that initial page. The overall effect is so clever, though, it’s a minor confusion I’m more than willing to put up with.
“Swamp Thing” is definitely moving in the right path; this feels like new and old readers should both be able to follow the action, and I like that aside from the inevitable Alec-becomes-Swamp-Thing moment, I have no idea what will happen next. With a new major villain introduced and a new core concept behind “Swamp Thing” itself, the book is full of possibilities. So far, Snyder and Paquette are making sure I want to keep reading to find out how it will all pan out.